No-show Gwen raises ire of MPs and protector

By Carien Du Plessis 17 August 2011

Public Works Minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde’s no-show at a meeting with MPs, set up at her request, added fuel to the fire in the row between the opposition and the ANC in Parliament over the Public Protector’s report on dodgy police leases worth R1.7 billion. CARIEN DU PLESSIS reports.

Public Minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde waited until the last minute, late Monday afternoon, to cancel her appearance at a meeting with the portfolio committee on public works – which meant that MPs went on and had the meeting anyway and moaned about the minister in her absence.

The meeting was supposed to have discussed the Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela’s report on the lease for the police headquarters in Pretoria. The minister said a “parliamentary process” on the report was initiated by National Assembly Speaker Max Sisulu, when the report was submitted to him earlier this month, and she couldn’t interfere.

Her spokesman, Sam Mkhwanazi (he seems to be a spin doctor who likes a challenge – a few years ago he was working for defence when Mosiuoa “Terror” Lekotawas minister –and was roped in by Mahlangu-Nkabinde in June) confirmed that the minister would rather not interfere now. He even had an excuse ready for the lateness of her cancellation.

“These issues are legal issues and they can take time,” he said, hinting that Mahlangu-Nkabinde had legal advice not to go to Parliament.

Her failure to attend the committee meeting comes a day after she missed her deadline to reply to the Public Protector’s report. Madonsela has hinted that she wanted to subpoena Mahlangu-Nkabinde to force her to reply.

The report raises serious questions about her involvement in the deal (which Mkhwanazi said was signed about three months before she became minister) to such a point that DA public works spokesman John Steenhuisen thinks she should resign.

Madonsela in her report called on President Jacob Zuma to take action against Mahlangu-Nkabinde for her role in the police buildings lease. She also complained that Mahlangu-Nkabinde failed to cooperate with her office on the investigation, while National Police Commissioner General Bheki Cele was blamed for his role in maladministration relating to the tenders for the two leases.

The report found that the Department of Public Works flouted tender processes in the lease agreement with businessman Roux Shabangu’s Roux Property Fund. (Oh, and Zuma has on various occasions denied that Shabangu was his friend).

Steenhuisen on Tuesday said he would ask the committee chairwoman, ANC MP Catherine Mabuza, to summon the minister under parliamentary rules. Steenhuisen, who has only come to Parliament recently and who attended his first meeting in the portfolio committee on Tuesday, said it was difficult for him to say which way the wind was blowing, but felt confident that Mabuza would try to get the minister there. “There seems to be an urgency to deal with the report,” Steenhuisen said.

He said http://www.da.org.za/newsroom.htm?action=view-news-item&id=9673 the minister had no legitimate excuse under Parliament’s rules not to come before the committee, and she had various questions to answer still, including why she failed to cooperate.

The DA and the ANC recently had a war of words over the Public Protector’s reports after the opposition accused Zuma of passing the buck to Parliament without any apparent political will to act on the report’s recommendations.

Zuma has, of course, vehemently denied it, telling the “frivolous” DA exactly where to get off. DM

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Photo: SA Government


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